Think of the last hospital commercial you've seen. Perhaps it showed a smiling young boy with a cast or an older woman embracing her husband, grateful to be alive after suffering a heart attack.
No matter the illness or injury, the resounding message is: "We're here to put you back together again."
Nicole Latimer calls this the "Humpty Dumpty effect," and it's a common approach to healthcare marketing.
Latimer is the CEO of StayWell, a health engagement company that helps other organizations educate their employees and motivate them to take action to improve their health. She recently spoke at the Content Marketing World/Cleveland Clinic Health Summit, where she discussed what's missing from many healthcare marketing messages today and how to use video to tell stories from a fresh perspective, whether your audience is patients, healthcare industry professionals or both.
We can all identify some of the most common approaches to healthcare marketing and video marketing in particular.
There's the "Humpty Dumpty" message, which we frequently see in patient testimonials. The patient shares a story of an injury or illness, followed by a journey of healing and recovery thanks to the talented physicians at the hospital. Testimonials can be incredibly powerful and effective, and they will continue to play an important role in healthcare marketing until the end of time.
One shortcoming Latimer sees with them, however, is that they can be limited in their scope. They're often so specific that we tend to relate to them only if we're facing a similar ordeal or recently experienced the same problems. In the testimonial narrative, the physicians are the heroes—as they should be. But most of us don't identify with physicians, and if we don't identify with either the patient or with the physician protagonist, we'll quickly forget the story.
Other typical themes of healthcare marketing focus on reliability and proximity:
We're here when it matters most.
We offer quality care, close to home.
There's nothing wrong with these messages, either. They just tend to be forgettable because we see them so often, and reliability and proximity are two factors we take for granted.
So how can healthcare organizations flip this script?
The key to developing messages that resonate, Latimer said, is to start with why.
In the famous words of author and marketing consultant Simon Sinek:
"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it."
To arrive at that truth, healthcare organizations need to take a step back and start with what they're trying to achieve on a larger scale. As Sinek says, most organizations can articulate what they do pretty well. They also may be able to explain how they do it. But the most successful ones have a well-established message around why they're in business, and they communicate it clearly and consistently.
Sinek's idea of the "Golden Circle" is both astonishingly simple and brilliant.
(Source: Flickr, Gavin Llewellyn)
Consider how Apple applies this concept to its marketing time after time. As a technology company, its greater purpose is to question the conventional. And it illustrates that perfectly in "The Human Family," a 1-minute video celebrating diversity that's shot entirely on iPhones.
Healthcare organizations can take a similar approach to their marketing.
For an organization focused on research, the why may be innovation and offering hope for the future. A large national medical center is training the next generation of physicians. A regional hospital is keeping its community healthy and contributing to economic growth.
Rather than only addressing those who are sick or injured, these are themes that appeal to everyone, including the majority of people who are healthy now but inevitably will need care at some point in their lives.
The American Heart Association does a great job of articulating its broader purpose in a way that has mass appeal. This video, "Life Is Why," explains that the organization has made better heart and brain health its mission because "the heart is where life's moments are felt most, and the mind is where these moments become memories, and are relived again and again."
When your mission is to help people live healthier, happier lives, the messaging almost writes itself. When you're selling technology or surgical instruments in the B2B realm, communicating your "why" can be a little more challenging.
A look at the websites of some of the best B2B healthcare companies can offer some inspiration.
Augmedix, a company that allows physicians to make better use of Google Glass to see information about patients and take notes in real time, is a great example. Its tagline, "rehumanizing healthcare," says it all.
And this 2-minute video on the company's home page breaks that down further by showing how the technology allows physicians to spend more time having face-to-face conversations and less time filling out paperwork.
AppliedVR, another B2B healthcare company, is in business not just because virtual reality is the next big thing in entertainment, but because it wants to transform patient care. The company explains how VR offers an escape for patients, especially children who are anxious about standard procedures like blood work.
Emotional messages like these are highly effective in health care, but there are other creative ways to convey a mission. Sometimes just offering a glimpse into what's possible in the future is all it takes. GE Healthcare does this exceptionally well, as we can see from this video announcing a new partnership with UCSF's Center for Digital Health Innovation. The focus is not just about the algorithm, but what the algorithm makes possible: expediting diagnoses to improve clinical workflows, which helps patients receive treatment faster and improves outcomes.
While patient testimonials, physician stories and case studies about specific solutions will always be an important part of your healthcare marketing strategy, it's also critical to communicate your broader mission to the people you serve.
If your organization is struggling to narrow this down, talk to founders or key stakeholders to learn more about your organization's history and why it started. You also can ask patients or clients about what is most important to them. Finally, it's worth taking the time to spell out your organization's key differentiators if you haven't done so in a while. This will help you arrive at your "why," craft a strong value proposition around it and develop website hero messages, videos and brand campaigns to communicate it.